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The Woman in the Shaman's Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine Paperback – December 27, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Scholarly and lay interest in shamanism continues to grow. Many pertinent books are still shadowed by the antifeminine bias of the renowned Mircea Eliade, whose mid-twentieth-century works applied shaman to a self-initiated, solitary male practicing "techniques of ecstasy." Eliade's towering influence has led to startling failures of scholarship, with facts twisted to fit his interpretative framework and biased language cloaking the truth. Tedlock reclaims the female shamanic tradition with vigor and clarity, arguing against depiction of shamans as male participants in "a sort of Flintstones private club in which manhood was celebrated and the transcendental achieved by worshiping, then negating, the feminine." The earliest known shamanic burial, she points out, was that of a woman of the Upper Paleolithic (30,000 years ago), whose dwelling included a potter's kiln in which she crafted thousands of tiny heads, feet, hands, and other talismans for healing. Tedlock argues that deliberate misreadings of data have been common, as when a shamanic couple is described as a "shaman and assistant" even when both acknowledged their shared role. She argues that women have been active practitioners and, in fact, the primary occupants of the shamanic role. Salted throughout with her own impressive memoir of initiation (with her husband, anthropologist Dennis Tedlock) and practice of traditional shamanism, Tedlock's book should become the classic on the controversial but now indisputable question of women's place in the shaman's world. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Praise for Woman in the Shaman’s Body:

“Healing, birthing children, gathering and growing food, keeping communities in balance, presiding over ceremonies and rites passage, maintaining relations with the dead, teaching, ministering to those in need, communing with nature to learn her secrets, preserving the wisdom traditions, divining the future, and dancing with gods and goddesses–these are shamanic arts. And these are the arts of women. In a thoughtful way, Barbara Tedlock traces the true history of shamanism, a history in which women have always been an integral and creative part. The Woman in the Shaman’s Body illuminates the oftentimes hidden, and sometimes openly suppressed, feminine spirit that is shamanism, that is healing, that is life.” --Bonnie Horrigan
Executive Director, Society for Shamanic Practitioners  

“This book is a highly readable yet comprehensive and definitive study of the role of women in shamanism. It is without doubt the best book ever written about the female role in shamanism and perhaps the best book ever done on shamanism itself.”--Timothy J. Knab, Ph.D.,
Author of A Scattering of Jades and A War of Witches

"Barbara Tedlock did a brilliant job of weaving together her own story
of shamanic initiation along with an incredible depth of research. She shatters
current myths about shamanism and shows how women were the originators and
key practitioners of shamanic healing and divination. In a time where we see so many women engaging in shamanic practice Tedlock offers valuable insight into the long-standing role of women in this ancient path. I truly loved reading this book!"--Sandra Ingerman, author of Soul Retrieval and Medicine for the Earth

“Scholars and lay readers alike are indebted to Barbara Tedlock for combining her personal and professional experience in this insightful, cross-cultural interpretation of shamanism.”--Douglas Sharon, director, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley

“Barbara Tedlock is part of the present big struggle to drag anthropology out of the rationalist and anti-humanist black hole in which it has found itself. Barbara Tedlock started her career in anthropology with the “distant coolness of a scientific observer.” But the K’iche’ Maya among whom she worked responded by healing her in her illness. They thenceforth taught her to practice as a healer herself. This is the pattern in advanced anthropology today. Now Barbara Tedlock has written the definitive book on women’s shamanism–its history, the way it is activated, and its particular roots in the woman’s body and in her powers of creation and procreation. The book is simply written, full of real stories, real dreams, and real shaman journeys. It will be a treasure for all adventurous women.”--Edith Turner, Editor-in-chief of Anthropology and Humanism , published by University of Virginia; author of Experiencing Ritual and The Hands Feel It

“This is a wonderful, insightful, and compelling introduction to Shamanism as "a healing practice and religious sensibility" performed by women from time immemorial to the present day. Barbara Tedlock is a working Shaman and proud descendant of Shamans native to North America. She is also an accomplished social scientist who understands the rules of empirical analysis that apply to the scholarly study of religion and ritual. With the clear, engaging prose of an expert observer and the personal experience of a spiritual practitioner, she weaves a story that is both autobiography and persuasive argument for the importance of women as Shaman world-wide and throughout history.” --David A. Freidel, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University

Barbara Tedlock’s study of female shamans offers rare gifts: luminous insight, exhaustive scholarly knowledge, and accessible language that pulses with quiet intensity. After Tedlock, no one will ever again be able to portray shamanism as a male enterprise.”
 --Michael F. Brown, Ph.D. Chair, Dept. of Anthropology & Sociology Williams College and/or as the author of The Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age and, more recently, Who Owns Native Culture?

“If Joseph Campbell or Mircea Eliade had been feminists, this is a book they could wish they had written. This canon-busting romp across history and around the globe, from Paleolithic Europe to contemporary North America, insists on the centrality of women to the shamanic traditions that have until now been considered the province of men. Drawing on her training in the healing arts as a young child by her Ojibwa grandmother, her later professional training with Mayan shamans in Guatemala, and her more recent observations of shamanic rituals in Mongolia, Tedlock has created a formidable work: a meticulously researched yet delightfully absorbing compendium of women’s shamanic skills across time and space.”--Alma Gottlieb, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology at University of Illinois; co-editor of Blood Magic, and A World of Babies; President, Society for Humanistic Anthropology

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553379712
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553379716
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A brilliant, feminine balance to Jung, Campbell and Eliade

"The Woman in the Shaman's Body" is empowering, vastly informative and also great fun to read. It reads swiftly and goes down as easily as cool water with delicious healing herbs thrown in - it flies along as easily as a shaman in a lucid dream. If I were still a college teacher I would use it for a text, for I know young people would find it accessible and intriguing.

As a woman engaged in alternative healing practices, an author and a lifelong student of the world's shamanic traditions, I LOVE this book and will place it in my library's spot of highest honor. Yes, for me it is an elixir. Tedlock is a great synthesizer of the scholarly - with prodigious research and meticulous citation, and a fair sprinkling of up-to-date neuroscience and the biochemistry of healing and altered states - blended with vivid, earthy stories and personal anecdotes from her incredible adventurous life into a marvelous alchemy. As she says herself, to make her point she relies on the skills of both her callings: "argumentative intellectual reasoning" and "intuitive emotional reasoning", the yang and the yin. It should be difficult for any reader to not be persuaded by her writing.

What is Tedlock's case? It is the argument for the "existence, importance and power" of women shamans in ancient cultures over the entire Earth, a legacy that belongs to all of us. (We can all follow the shamanic paths of our ancestresses. You don't have to be Native American or usurp or steal Native American or Mongolian traditions. You don't have to be male).
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Format: Hardcover
In this book a woman anthropologist and initiated shaman challenges the historical hegemony of the masculine shamanic tradition, restores women to their essential place in the history of spirituality, and celebrates their ongoing role in the worldwide resurgence of shamanism today. She probes the practices that distinguish female shamanism from the much-better-known male traditions and reveals the key role of body wisdom and women's eroticism in shamanic trance and ecstasy. She explores feminine forms of "dream witnessing" and vision questing as well as the use of hallucinogenic plants.

There is much that is absolutely new here, especially in terms of Mayan and Mongolian shamanism. The book also delves into shamanic midwifery, perhaps the first book to ever do so!

Her knowledge is both experiential, i.e. she is a trained practicing shaman, and scholarly she has read virtually everything ever written on shamanism worldwide and has undertaken first-hand research in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In her worldwide coverage of the topic she is similar to Mircea Eliade but both her gender and her training in shamanism makes her very different from Eliade.

The last chapter explores various forms of shamanic practice today: Wicca, Goddess Spirituality, Druidry, Heathenry, Seidr and many more. She points out that we are at the beginning of a worldwide spiritual movement in which women and men trained in feminine shamanic traditions insist on their right to openly practice ancient religious rituals as well as complementary and alternative medicine. A must read!
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Format: Hardcover
The author does name names of sources for the most part. I think that her discussion of traditional shamanisms and shamanistic practices in different cultures is pretty good, and that she does a service in lifting the veil of academic male-centered assessments of shamanism in her work. She has some very good things to say, but overall, I do find her approach rather feelgood. She somewhat downplays the dangers of the shamanic path, though she points out that the death/renewal theme of shamanic initiation seems to arise more from the masculine practice of shamanism, where her view of the feminine practices emphasise birth/midwifery as a metaphor of shamanic initiation in global practices.

Generally, the book seems reasonably sound. My greatest overall complaint is that there is no bibliography. All her cites are in her footnotes, and the reader is forced to comb through the footnotes to get where her research is coming from, rather than having her sources and readings cited in a more easily accessible bibliography. It's in looking to these sources that I have some concerns.

Her chapter on reconstructing shamanisms is where I have my greatest single issue. She seems to hold Michael Harner in high regard, and cites people like Nigel Pennick (whose books are always notably free of source cites), John Matthews, Tom Cowan, and DJ Conway about the shamanic nature of early Celtic religion and Wicca. This in itself is more than enough to make me twitch. I could probably have lived with it if she'd only cited Cowan and Matthews, but Conway's inclusion really tosses her final chapter off the deep end for me, and makes me wonder about the rest of the scholarship in the book.
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